Minnesota News Roundup: Weather goes from from cold and snow to fire danger
GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. - Later today a "Fire Weather Watch" will be issued for most of central and south-central Minnesota. Strong winds, high temperatures and low humidity are making conditions ripe for wildfires.
Jean Goad with the Interagency Fire Center in Grand Rapids says they're also urging people who have done burning over the last few days to go back and make sure there are no coals remaining that could reignite Goad says until there's green up, fire danger will remain fairly high.
Folks who track tornadoes and severe thunderstorms in Minnesota are having a quiet spring this year. The crop of late season winter storms is partly the cause. Meteorologist Todd Krause says we've been lucky so far when it comes to twisters -- but past experience is highly variable. Krause says Minnesota didn't have any tornadoes in 2010 until June 17th, but on that day there were 48 twisters and three people were killed. Last year, the state saw its first tornado March 19th and there were four rare tornado reports on November 10th.
Third District Congressman Erik Paulsen is the latest Republican to announce he will *not* run for U.S. Senate or governor next year. Paulsen's office released a statement saying "he has decided not to seek election for a different office in 2014." Paulsen does plan to run for another term in the U.S. House. Many analysts believed he might challenge Governor Dayton or Senator Al Franken. Wayzata businessman Scott Honour and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson are seeking the GOP nomination for governor. Second District Republican Congressman John Kline ruled out a run for governor and U.S. Senate last month.
Two Minneapolis men were sent to prison for running what prosecutors call a terrorist pipeline to send men to fight in the internal wars of Somalia. Muhamud Said Omar was convicted in 2012 of aiding foreign terrorism, and has been sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was considered the ringleader of a plot to raise money and recruit soldiers to assist the terrorist group Al-Shabab, and prosecutors had asked for a 50 sentence. Kamal Said Hassan pled guilty in 2009 to aiding terrorism and lying to the FBI, and was sentenced to 10 years. Federal prosecutors say the plot recruited more than 20 young men to Somalia, and many of them died fighting or in suicide bombings. Seven more people will be sentenced this week for aiding terrorism in a foreign country, four of them today and three on Thursday.
Police and prosecutors are awaiting toxicology results before determining whether the on-again, off-again boyfriend of a woman who was missing five months before her body was discovered last week will face charges. The medical examiner has listed the cause and manner of Danielle Jelinek's death as "pending", and Chisago County Sheriff Rick Duncan says if the cause is eventually ruled as drug related, Aaron Schnagl would be a suspect. Minnesota law states that anyone who supplies a lethal dose of illegal drugs can be charged with unintentional murder, and Duncan says that's a possibility in this case. Schnagl was arrested after a search of his home, conducted during the search for Jelinek, found 13 pounds of marijuana and an large assortment of pills. Schnagl has repeatedly said that he had nothing to do with Jelinek's death.
A Cloquet woman who burned down a home in an attempt to intimidate witnesses against her boyfriend, who is accused of murdering Trina Langenbrunner nearly 13 years ago, has been sentenced to nine-and-a-half years in prison. 40-year-old Sandra Couture pled guilty in March to witness tampering and arson. Couture testified at her plea hearing that she had been in a romantic relationship with Joseph Couture but lived in fear of him because he was jealous, controlling, and had anger issues. They referred to themselves as husband and wife but were not married, and, in fact, she had been married to his brother. She said Joseph Couture wanted her to send a message to those who would testify against him by burning down the home. Joseph Couture was Trina Langbrunner's neighbor when she was stabbed to death while hitchhiking in 2000. The date for his murder trial has not yet been set.
Hastings Police are looking for a vandal they say spray painted graffiti that may have been satanic on the side of a church. Five-pointed stars inside circles and an upside down cross have been scrubbed from the bricks and windows of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, but Police Chief Paul Schnell says the nature of this vandalism is a concern to his department, and any time vandalism is seemingly motivated by religious, racial, or gender issues they step up the level of investigation. There is a reward for information leading to an arrest.
A Lakeville elementary school was so badly damaged in a water main break early yesterday morning that the more than 500 students enrolled will go to class elsewhere for the remainder of the school year. Administrators say the 8-inch water main at Cherry View Elementary School ruptured with such force that boilers and other equipment were damaged. Students and staff were evacuated until parents could pick up their children, and nobody was injured. Cherry View teachers and staff are working with a moving company today to move education materials and students' belongings to other buildings throughout the district and get classrooms ready, and officials expect the kids to return to class Thursday.
Lawyers for a Faribault man accused of frequently visiting online suicide chat rooms and encouraging two people to take their own lives have argued before state Supreme Court justices that the state law against advising, encouraging or assisting suicide is unconstitutional. Attorney Terry Watkins says the case of former nurse William Melchert-Dinkel is a matter of free speech, and that the assisted suicide law violates the First Amendment. The 50-year-old was convicted in March of 2011 of aiding suicide, after two people killed themselves after chatting with Melchert-Dinkel online. The Court of Appeals agreed with the lower court in July 2012 and affirmed the conviction.
A former Rochester man who scammed a St. Paul woman he met on an online dating site was sentenced to two months in the workhouse, but in order to avoid 17 months in prison Curtis Britton will have to stay out of trouble for five years, and prosecutors have more than a little doubt that he'll succeed. Britton scammed the woman out of 24-thousand dollars last year, claiming he needed the money to get his mother's body back to her native Trinidad and cover her funeral. His mother died in 1985. Ramsey County prosecutor Richard Dusterhoft says just two days before the sentencing hearing Britton asked a woman in Phoenix to buy him a ticket to Chicago to go to his mother's funeral, and tried to swindle a second woman. He met both on a dating site. In 2008 Britton appeared on the "Judge Judy" show after another woman he had met online sued him when he didn't repay money she lent him. He told the judge he was considering an apearance on MTV's "Catfish: The TV Show," which deals with people who present themselves online as something they are not.